Imagine this, legendary rock bands that have disbanded, The Beatles, Led Zeppelin or Nirvana coming back for one more tour, however, replace rock band and concert with mercenary bands and killing monsters. I won’t go into any details on the music allusions, it’s ubiquitous throughout the whole book and you should experience it yourself but in my opinion they're a Joy To the World (Sing it with me!) of fantasy.
Clay Cooper and his Band, Saga (The Kings of the Wyld) were once the greatest of the greatest mercenary Bands but now the members has separated and grown old, fat, drunk or a combination of the three. Until one day, Clay’s band mate, Gabriel came asking for help with the most dangerous request that will require the Band for one more tour across the Heartwyld, a gigantic forest filled with plethora of monsters, beasts and many other deadly sentient beings.
KotW is a rollicking adventure that managed to gave me variety of emotions ranging from happiness to poignancy. It’s a scarcity to read a novel that made me grin like a fool throughout the whole book and also made me tense within those same pages. You should know though that despite the book being very humorous with its pun and dark humor, don’t think of it as a complete comedy cause Nick knows how to shifts your emotion swiftly. One moment you’re smiling or laughing, before you realize it, you’ll be holding your breath or on the brink of tear. It’s safe to say that I’m genuinely pleased by the storyline itself since Nicholas (or Nick) has crafted a splendid hybrid between epic fantasy and Grimdark, resulting in a superlative blend of marvelous actions, hilarious humor, and heartfelt scenes.
How did he achieve this marvelous result? Lovable characters, gripping actions, intricate world-building and well polished prose.
Every character in the book, whether it’s the 5 members of Saga or the side characters managed to made me really care about their fate and circumstances, all within the span of a single book. They are unique, lovable, felt real and compelling to read. The witty banter between these characters, their puns and random behaviors never fails to entertained me. However, when it comes down to it, what made me really attached to Saga are their brotherhood, friendship, loyalty and familial love. Like a vacation/road trip you went with your best friends that waits for you, every time I took a break from reading it, I find myself compelling to pick it back up again to continue my tour with the Band.
“As individuals they were each of them fallible, discordant as notes without harmony. But as a band they were something more, something perfect in its own intangible way”
If I have to choose one favorite (IF okay?), it will have to be the main character, Clay Cooper. Reluctant heroes has always been one of my favorite protagonist tropes in all kind of story and Clay Cooper fall to this category perfectly and it’s why he’s my favorite character of the book, heck he’s even included into my personal list of my favorite book protagonist. I love how these type of characters, despite their reluctance and circumstances are willing to do what’s right, either out of friendships or convictions.
Picture: Clay Cooper charges the Rasks by Felix Ortiz
Have I mentioned that there are a lot of great action sequences in the book? Every action scenes are intriguing, dynamic and engaging. The buildup to the climax in particular is fantastic to say the least. This buildup however leads me to believe that the climax could be better if it received more pages. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still amazing, but it definitely can be even better with more exposition cause the buildup to and the setting of the climax were so gripping, well written and unexpectedly, epic.
Picture: Lastleaf and Ashatan by Felix Ortiz
If you’ve been following the frequency of my reviews and updates, you should know by now that gaming is one of my biggest passions. Imagine my happiness to find out that there’s actually a myriad of video games elements infused into the world-building. Music allusions aside, I envisioned the world that Nick created as a stunning mix between epic fantasy and Role Playing Games. Skyships, legendary swords, lots and lots of beasts and mythological creatures such as Chimera, Wyverns, Dragons, Golems and many more that can be found in mythologies and RPG are all here. There’s even a character named Firaga, which is the name of the highest fire magic tier in my beloved 'Final Fantasy' series. As a great bonus, (probably not many people will get this) Nick even implements the popular gaming reference “the cake is a lie” from Portal into the book perfectly and my nerdy self is completely delighted by all these features. I could go on for so much longer about the magnificent world building intricacy in its lore, maps and settings but I’ll stop it here. I do however think that some part of the info dump sections could be trimmed down a bit for the reason that it will improve the pacing of the book even more.
The prose itself contain no resemblance to a debut work, it’s extremely well written and polished. To sum up Nick’s prose properly, it’s a mixture between Joe Abercrombie (one of my favorite author), Scott Lynch and Patrick Rothfuss. Abercrombie’s dark humor and dramatic vivid scenes, combined with Lynch’s crude dialogues and banters, add a bit of Rothfuss’s simple and genuine prose, there is nothing left to say other than this is a work of brilliance.
The talk about life and death in particular is probably where Nick’s prose really shines (excluding the hilarious dark humor of course) for me, here’s one of my favorite quote from the book on the topic:
“Life was funny, and fickle, and often cruel. Sometimes the unworthy went on living, while those who deserved better was lost.
Or not lost, he considered, since they lingered on in the hearts of those who loved them, who love them still, their memory nurtured like a sprig of green in an otherwise desolate soul. Which was, he supposed, a kind of immortality, after all.”
There are tons of other gems like this for you to encounter in the book, it’s simply incredible how the prose managed to always immerse me back into the story swiftly.
For those of you who usually prefer to wait for the next book in the series to come out first before starting, you certainly can do so but if that’s truly your only reason, I’m saying that you’re postponing on reading one of the most excellent debut of all time with the wrong reason. Trust me, I’m a binge reader and most of the time I followed the same behavior. Luckily, this book can absolutely be considered as a standalone for the story itself has concluded wonderfully within this installment. Think of ‘The Band’ as a standalone trilogy, Nick himself has stated that although there’s something of an arc throughout the trilogy, each installment will be a standalone story starring a different Band. This means a new story with new casts of characters and maybe a new locales (there's still so much to explore in the world), there’s no reason why you should wait for the next book to come out first before reading this stunning debut.
Similar to one of the main themes of the book where the new generation of mercenary Bands tried to outshine the old legendary Bands in their pursuit of glory, in my opinion it will be tough for Nick to top his debut with its sequel, ‘Bloody Rose’. Let’s just say I can’t wait for him to prove me wrong.
Kings of the Wyld is a new addition to ‘one of my favorite debuts I ever read in my life’ list, along with 'The Name of the Wind' by Patrick Rothfuss, 'The Lies of Locke Lamora' by Scott Lynch and 'Malice' by John Gwynne. It was a marvelous, fun and full-hearted wyld (see what I did there?) experience. The fantasy genre has got a new voice, it’s singing gloriously and I’m brave enough to claim that just from his debut, Nicholas Eames is the next name to enter the big league in the fantasy genre.
Recommended? Hell fucking yes, to every fantasy fans, you should read this ASAP. In terms of debut or the first book of a series, it’s one of the best out there.
Side note: The physical form of this book is damn gorgeous. Richard Anderson did an amazing job with the book cover, here’s the proof. Trust me, it looked even better in real life.
Picture: Petrik Star (me) being amazed by how resplendent the cover and content of the book is.